Justice Fellowship Lauds Bipartisan Effort to Advance Restorative Justice Values

Federal Prison Reform Bill Aims to Shift Focus from Locking ‘Bad’ People Up to Bringing Good Neighbors Home

Today Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) announced their plan to introduce the Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction and Eliminating Costs for Taxpayers In Our National System (CORRECTIONS) Act, a bill aimed at reforming the federal prison system.

“This bipartisan effort is about more than changing policy; it’s an opportunity to change the criminal justice paradigm,” said Craig DeRoche, the executive director of Justice Fellowship, Prison Fellowship’s criminal justice advocacy arm. “Justice Fellowship looks forward to reading the final bill, but we certainly applaud the underlying goal: empowering corrections officials and prisoners to redefine time spent in prison from a period of incapacitation to a crossroads of transformation.”

The CORRECTIONS legislation requires the Bureau of Prisons to assign programming based on the risks and needs of men and women in federal prison. In exchange for completing programming proven to reduce the likelihood of re-offending, lower-risk prisoners can earn time toward pre-release custody. The bill also authorizes U.S. Probation to conduct a pilot program in which individuals with substance-abuse issues are subject to high-intensity supervision, and swift, predictable and graduated sanctions for breaking program rules. The pilot is modeled after the HOPE Program in Hawaii, which has been highly successful in curtailing participants’ substance abuse.

“We are excited to see the 114th Congress continue to show a commitment to bipartisan criminal justice reform that is not only evidence-based, but values-based,” said DeRoche. Public safety may require that we lock someone up, but that alone will not heal victims or break the cycle of crime. We must recognize the God-given dignity and potential of every person behind bars by promoting an expectation that ‘doing time’ means doing what it takes to earn back the public’s trust.”

In 1983, the late Chuck Colson founded Justice Fellowship less than a decade after founding Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families. Justice Fellowship’s mission is to reform the justice system according to biblical restorative justice principles, so that communities are safer, victims are respected and prisoners are transformed. Colson and Justice Fellowship have played a leading role in working with members of Congress to pass groundbreaking justice reforms, including the:

  • Religious Freedom Restoration Act
  • Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
  • Prison Rape Elimination Act
  • Fair Sentencing Act
  • Second Chance Act